Lieutenant General Andrew Gregory, Ladies and Gentleman Good evening and Assalaamu Alaikum. At the outset I would like to wish everyone a belated Eid Mubarak
Eid-ul-Adha is an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. God however intervened and provided a ram to sacrifice instead.The Eid festival has significance not only in Islam but in Christianity and Judaism as well. Islam, in fact, regards Christians and Jews as people of the book, and Muslims believe the books of Allah are the Quran, the Torah, the Gospel and the Psalms of David.
In one of my speeches in the House of Lords I commended the Armed Forces on the formation of its Muslim Association. I was in fact present when Lord Richards launched the Association and became its founding Patron.
I am very pleased that the Armed Forces Muslim Association has been moving forward since its inception. The Association has organised several activities which I have attended and I will support them as much as possible.
You will notice that I am wearing a RAF tie and handkerchief which was presented to me by Squander Leader Zahour Hussain. I would like to mention that I speak on defence matters in the House of Lords from time to time.
There are over 600 Muslims who are currently serving in the British armed forces. There are now nearly 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom. Muslims have done very well in every field in this country. I would like to encourage more of the ethnic minorities to join the Armed forces and the police force. Muslims are now part of the British population and it is important that we get involved in every walk of life.
It is also imperative that we must maintain and strengthen the relationship between the Armed Forces and the Muslims in the country. I feel that tonight’s event organised by the Minister of Defence will help to achieve this objective. We must remember that Muslims and other ethnic minorities have made great sacrifices and fought in both World Wars in great numbers.
We are commemorating the centenary of the First World War and there have been numerous events held in the country. I have spoken in the House of Lords twice stating the contributions of people from the Indian sub-continent and scarifies made by them. They fought in both World Wars out of love and loyalty to the King and Empire.
On the 17th November I am holding a meeting in the House of Lords on the subject of the Contributions made by the Muslims in the First World War and emphasis the need to develop stronger links between the Muslims and the Armed Forces. If you would like to attend the meeting then please let Lady Sheikh know.
There were over 400,000 Muslims who fought in the First World War and there were three Victoria Crosses awarded to the Muslims.
The first person from the ethnic minority to be awarded the Victoria Cross was a Muslim whose name is Khudadad Khan. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1915 whilst fighting in Belgium. He served in the 129th Duke of Connaught’s own Baluchi Regiment. Britain has a proud tradition of playing a major part on the international stage and our service personnel have demonstrated a courage and strength that have regularly achieved international acclaim.
The so called Jihadists in Iraq and Syria do not understand the principles of Islam. They are harming women, children, forcibly converting people of other religions to Islam and committing barbaric acts.
As we are guests of the Armed Forces and the subject is topical I would like to say that there are clear rules of engagement in Islam relating to warfare. These were laid down by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and Khalifa Abu Bakr.
These rules include the following:
i. Give diplomacy a chance before battle starts.
ii. Do not harm women, children, the elderly and religious persons.
iii. Do not destroy crops and trees.
iv. Protect all places of worship.
v. Treat well all prisoners of War.
The actions and acts of the so called Jihadists are totally un-Islamic and we utterly condemn what they have done and are doing.
In the 7th Century when Muslims conquered Jerusalem Khalifa Omar signed the first Jerusalem declaration which preserved the rights of existence and ensured the wellbeing of everyone in Jerusalem. Subsequently in 1187 when Salahudin Ayubi who is known as Saladin in the west conquered Jerusalem he allowed people of all faiths to live in peace. Before him when Christians conquered Jerusalem in 1099 they mercilessly massacred all Muslims and Jews. In time of warfare Muslims should follow the examples set by Khalifa Omar and Salahudin Ayubi.
The so called Jihadists are forcibly converting people to Islam. This is not allowed in Islam. It is written in the Holy Quran that there is no compulsion in religion. In regard to treatment of non-Muslims by the so called Jihadists and also our relationship with all other communities I would like to emphasise that it is written in the Holy Quran:
“O Mankind we have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another.”
We live in United Kingdom which is very much a multi-cultural society and it is very important that we maintain and strengthen relationships with everyone in the country.
Unfortunately there is a tiny minority of Muslims who have committed acts of terrorism in the United Kingdom and also countries overseas. In this regards I would like to say that Islam forbids act of terrorism and suicide bombings. It is written in the Holy Quran “If anyone slays a person it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.
Unfortunately we were unable to see the programme on Noor Inayat Khan GC because of technical difficulties. Noor Inayat Khan was a British secret agent and a member of SOE who was captured by the Germans in France. She refused to give any information about her work or talk about her fellow operatives. She was badly tortured by the Germans and then shot in 1944. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949. This is another example of contributions of Muslims to the King, Country and the Empire.
Finally I would thank the Armed Forces Muslim Association for the courtesy shown to me and my wife.